A.Kevin Stack, a certified home energy rater in Syracuse, N.Y., responds: The traditional open-hearth fireplace has a lot of charm and is often at the top of the typical new-home buyer's wish list; it is also inefficient, creates a break in the thermal envelope, and generates both indoor and outdoor air pollution.

For these reasons, the energy codes in many states — including New York's Energy Conservation Construction Code (102.7) — require that solid-fuel fireplaces be installed with tightfitting noncombustible fireplace doors to control infiltration losses. New York's building code also requires factory-built and masonry fireplaces to be equipped with...

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